Wolfman, The (2010)

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 02/15/10 13:27:49

"Ends up ‘biting’ the dust!"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

The release of a gory werewolf drama on a Valentine’s Day weekend seems odd. But perhaps there is no greater love than that of a woman for a beastly man who might pose the greatest danger to her life. If the success of past years’ lycanthropic teenage romances in the Twilight series are any indication, mainstream representations of werewolves are now no longer about the psychological wrangling of a man tormented by his inner beast. The werewolf in today’s movies is a literal embodiment of the boyfriend that every girl is warned about- the one that you know is ‘bad’ for you and yet inexplicably the most desirable. To an age that lacks cultural icons, the subduing of a werewolf by love then is it’s most romantic and exaggerated zenith of the taming trope. And so The Wolfman, a no-gores-barred remake of the 1941 classic, finds itself releasing this Valentine’s Day weekend in its bid to woo puppy-love couples wanting to cuddle up closer in reaction to a fright than serious fans of the horror genre.

By no accident then, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) chooses to return decades later to his ancestral estate at Blackmoor upon the insistence of his brother’s fiancée, the lovely Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), who writes to him of her to-be-husband’s sudden and mysterious disappearance. By the time Lawrence arrives in the moody Victorian hamlet, after having essayed the titular role of Hamlet in the American theatre, his brother’s mangled body has been discovered and their father Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) seems to have reconciled to the ghastly nature of his elder son’s death a bit too soon and a tad too easily. For a brief moment, thanks to Hopkins hamming it up just right and the earlier invocation of Shakespeare’s masterwork, it felt like the narrative would delve into the emotional battle of an estranged son and an emotionally disaffected father. No luck though. The film promptly jumps back to Lawrence and Gwen, with him finding time to teach her skipping rocks on water as well!

Gwen, for whom Lawrence doubtlessly harbours feelings, implores Lawrence to find out the man responsible for their shared loss. His enquiry brings him to a gypsy settlement where he is monished of great danger. Right away Lawrence gets hurt in a werewolf attack, and finds himself recovering astonishingly quickly. As the next full moon approaches, and his senses begin to heighten, Lawrence realizes that he has been cursed and that he is to become the beast. The film is actually decent until this point while it’s expositing. It is when it shifts gears that it falls apart.

Robbed off any emotional depth, we never feel for what happens of Lawrence. His transformation from man to beast and back again remains merely a computer generated transition, nothing more. That Del Toro chooses to play the character as inertly as he does make his eventual lycanthropy alien and unaffecting. His romance with Emily Blunt is also no more intense than half-hearted sighs and awkward gazes. As a film aiming to draw in couples, the romance simply doesn’t hold.

For a horror fan, the film has gore alright. But the CGI work is surprisingly poor, as is the prosthetic work for the werewolves. The sequences where Del Toro transforms into the werewolf consist of epileptic bone-twitches and shoddy morphs.

Even otherwise, what’s the point of remaking something if you’re not going to adapt it to a contemporary setting or subvert it with a present-day concern? This remake is happy being set in 1890 and doesn’t show any interest in exploring the manifest dilemma of an anguished son unable to rein in the monster within. Like its protagonist then, the film flares its claws and canines but hardly manages to cut deeper than the skin.

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